Winderman: Expect more Heat “injuries” as they rest for playoffs

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In the ego-driven, pride-centric world of the NBA, you’re never going to hear an athlete say, “Man, I’m tired, I’m sitting this one out.”

So, apparently, he instead has a bruised knee.

Yet keep an eye on that left knee of Dwyane Wade, and don’t be surprised if it’s suddenly healed by the time the Heat host the Thunder on Wednesday night.

Oh, some teams will just come out and say it, especially a don’t-give-a-rat’s-butt coach like Gregg Popovich, who simply can list Tim Duncan as “DNP-old.”

But that’s the exception.

So as we continue to work through the Sunday game tape of Heat-Celtics trying to find the moment when Wade bruised that left knee, we also appreciate the Heat’s move to sit Wade on Tuesday night against the 76ers, a team the Heat now have beaten 11 consecutive times during the regular season (as well as 4-1 during the opening round of last season’s playoffs).

For all the barking Doug Collins did during that game about Erik Spoelstra standing on the court — at one point threatening to do the same so the teams could play six on six —  Spoelstra had the courtesy to not just come out and say his team knew it could beat the 76ers without Wade. Because it always does.

Based on the Heat’s absurd April, one that includes 16 games in 26 days, including an illogical run of four home games in five nights later in the month, expect a few more injuries to pop up among the regulars.

And good for them, if not the ticket-buying public.

Oh, Wade’s left knee most assuredly is sore, as is the right one, as is just about everything on a body that continually hurtles into the lane.

But the reality is the Heat close the schedule with consecutive road games, don’t arrive back in South Florida until the early hours of April 27 and could open the playoffs in the afternoon on April 28.

So “bruised left knee”? Fine.

“Dead legs”? Fine as well.

Or an organization with the bigger picture in mind, picking and choosing its spots through a closing minefield? Smart, very smart.

Wade’s knee may yet keep him out Wednesday against the Thunder. But we’re figuring that also would leave Wade with a bruised ego in the wake of the Heat’s recent blowout loss in Oklahoma City, and that’s something that almost assuredly should have him back on the court.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.